White Sox pitching prospect gave fans a glimpse of what the future could look like on the mound this past Sunday. Could pitcher become future ace on the South Side?
During Sunday’s finale against the Detroit Tigers, White Sox fans witnessed a glimpse of their very bright future as starter Lucas Giolito fired seven scoreless innings en route to a 7-1 victory. The victory was the first of Giolito’s career. Does the 23-year-old Giolito have what it takes to fulfill his potential in becoming the future ace of the Sox?
In order to understand the potential that Giolito currently possesses, it started way back when he was regionally recognized as one of the top high school prospects in the country. What was not to love? His imposing 6 foot 6 inch frame on the mound, coupled with a high 90’s fastball and wicked curveball immediately made him one of the best high school pitchers in the country.
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Towards the end of his senior year at Harvard-Westlake High School inStudio City, Calif., Giolito had committed to UCLA to play baseball; that was until he sprained his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, sidelining him for the rest of his senior season. Giolito’s high school numbers were eye popping all across the board: a 1.51 ERA, 12 wins, and 106 strikeouts over 97.2 innings of work stood out enough to baseball personnel and still landed Giolito a top draft pick selection in 2012, even with the damage to his elbow.
The injury to Giolito’s elbow required Tommy John surgery in July of 2012, and left many front office officials around baseball wondering where Giolito’s draft stock would be come June during the First Year Player Draft. Many experts believed Giolito really had the promise to go first overall in the draft, but the damage to his elbow led him to being drafted 16th overall by the Washington Nationals. Giolito signed with the Nationals with a hefty $2.925 million signing bonus.
Giolito pitched three minor league seasons in the Nationals organization before being traded to the White Sox this past offseason. Giolito, along with Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning were sent from the Nationals to the South Side of Chicago for outfielder Adam Eaton. It became clear that Giolito emerged as one of the key building blocks towards the Sox future.
To start his 2017 campaign, Giolito was sent down to Triple-A Charlotte. During his time down in the minors this season Giolito went through his fair share of struggles. Prior to the Triple-A All-Star game, Giolito started 17 games, going 3-8 with a 4.98 ERA. His atrocious first half struggles were due in large part to his lack of command in and outside of the strike zone.
He had walked 40 batters over 90.1 innings, for a guy that had been known to have impeccable control, it seemed odd for over a three months span he’d struggle with his command. After the All-Star game, he impressed White Sox management enough to earn him a call up to the big leagues level for the first time in a little over a year. In 7 starts after the All-Star break, Giolito posted a 3-2 record with a 3.29 ERA with just 18 walks over 38.1 innings of work.
Since his call up to Chicago back on Aug. 19, Sox fans have been able to see the two sides of Giolito this year. In his first start against the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 22, Giolito allowed three home runs as his fastball command escaped him all night long. Fast forward to five days later and Giolito tosses the best start of his young career with seven scoreless frames against the Tigers.
In the time span since Giolito has been acquired, the White Sox have also obtained the services of pitchers: (aforementioned Lopez new Dunning) Michael Kopech (third ranked White Sox prospect), Victor Diaz, Dylan Cease (seventh ranked), Ian Clarkin (23rd ranked), A.J. Puckett (24th ranked), and Andre Davis.
Clearly, those are just the pitchers that the Sox have most recently added on to their stockpile of solid minor league pitching. With Giolito being one of the first ones to get a crack at leading the future rotation of the South Siders along with Lopez, it is a clear cut sign that he can possibly lead this Sox rotation going forward.
All young phenoms deal with at some point in their young careers is the pressure to not only pitch well, but to live up to other worldly expectations. Such expectations do fall on the shoulders of Giolito, who is expected to lead the future of the White Sox when they hope to become a contending ballclub in the near future. Giolito will have time to develop at the big league level for at least two seasons without too much pressure to perform.
If there is one man in baseball, who can help ease a young talented starter into the big leagues, it is long time White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. Cooper or “Coop” is credited with helping turn around the careers of Esteban Loaiza, Jose Contreras, and Bartolo Colon just to name a few. Since Cooper joined the Sox staff back in 2003, White Sox starters have recorded the most quality starts in the American League. Giolito will be blessed to have such a great helping hand by his side after a rough outing, or if he can’t figure out why his curveball isn’t my breaking as sharply as it usually does.
As for the here and now of Giolito’s career, it’s the same as it goes for every other starter in the league: stay healthy. If Giolito is able to toe the rubber every fifth day, his potential will come to fruition, and Sox fans can begin to rejoice sooner rather than later about the potential ace of their staff in Giolito.